Akachochin – Melbourne CBD
My craving for Japanese has brought me to a modest restaurant hidden in South Wharf Promenade – a stone’s throw away from DFO and Hilton. Named after red paper lanterns that is used to hang outside traditional Japanese Izakaya’s, Akachochin (pronounced as Aka-cho-chin) undoubtedly has become one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. Housed in a renovated cargo shed, this little gem has been slicing sushi and sashimi with a modern twist that is pleasing to diners. At the helm is head chef Kengo Hiromatsu (of Nobu fame) who artistically combines fresh quality ingredients with Japanese tradition and presented in a modern way.
We were served by a nice waitress, Eriko who brought us the menu which combines 7 pages of sharing menu and 6 pages of sake range that showcases the best of Japan has to offer. Started with Sapporo Premium beer which gives the perfect balance of taste with popular Hiramasa Namerou with Rice Crackers. What a cracker dish! The kingfish tartare is perfectly combined with wasabi stem and moromi miso – when eaten together with delicately crisp rice crackers, produces an explosion of spiced flavours and mix of texture.
Choosing from a selection of sushi rolls that are wonderfully described in the menu was already mouth watering enough. Ebi Kyu Maki (Ebi cucumber roll) is adored by my little one especially the bubuarare (crispy puffed rice pallets). The chef did a creative take on the beautiful presentation of Unagi Avo Maki which took my breath away. Eel was seared nicely and wrapped with well cooked sushi rice and fresh, sliced cucumber.
Next, we moved on to 2 tataki dishes – first up was the Maguro Tataki drizzled with ponzu jelly and anchovy dressing. The tuna was seared so delicately at the edges giving it a nice “crust” texture and well balanced sweet, sour, spiced flavour. Wagyu Tataki topped with crispy leek and chives just melts in mouth. It is served with citrus miso sauce that lends a tangy note which is such a compatible pairing.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the cold dishes, we migrated to their agemono (deep fried) and nimono (simmered) items. Buta kakuni consist of 2 thick fat pork belly braised and simmered in spice laden soy sauce and served with a dollop of japanese mustard. We love love love it. Not only did the mustard gave us the kick of our lives, pork belly was tender and easily shredded. Teba Gyoza on the other hand is an interesting match – much like Jekyll and Hyde. Replacing gyoza wrapper with fat juicy nicely-browned chicken wing and stuffed with vegetable/ginger mince inside is genius!
After much hype, we ended our lunch with a sweet note. Over the months, I have been developing a serious rash on my tongue called the “sweets rash” lol. So, desserts is a must-have in all meals. The Sweet Potato Brulee fascinates me – a savoury ingredient that is magically transformed into a dessert. Did it work for me? Yes! The texture surprises me because as a starchy ingredient, it would typically burden the taste buds but in this instance, the custard is light and smooth. The crust is torched evenly and passed my “crack test”. Black Sesame Pannacotta served with strawberry slices, green tea ice cream and heaping of red bean is delightful and enjoyable too.
Verdict : Presentation and creativity + taste and flavour + ambience and service = Exceptional. It’s simplicity in the use of fresh and quality ingredients to produce heavenly and authentic flavours comes so naturally. It is all of these combined factors that Akachochin will be here to stay.
To die for : Hiramasa Namerou, Buta Kakuni, Wagyu Tataki
Price : $$$
Yummy Factor : +4
Tip : Enter from the landward lane (front of Convention Centre). If you come from the riverside, enter via their sister business Sharing House.
You may also like : Riverside Teppanyaki